Security Experts:

AVG Launches "Do Not Track" Feature

AVG Technologies, the recently gone public provider of Internet security and utility software, this week launched a feature designed to help provide customers with increased privacy during their online activities.

AVG LogoGenerically called the “Do Not Track” feature, the new option helps users gain increased privacy by being informed of what tracking activity appears to be taking place, and gives them the choice to block tracking elements directly, piece by piece.

Collecting data from users and Web browsers is common and very important to many online businesses, especially eCommerce operators and businesses supported by online advertising. Some reports have shown that online security and privacy fears have had a fairly significant negative effect on online marketing performance.

While basic tracking is not a bad thing by nature, some sites share user data with third parties, a practice that has sparked concern by consumers and policy makers. For example, some forms of tracking allow advertisers to follow users around the Internet and deliver targeted advertising across multiple websites in ways consumers are unaware. Take, for example, the recent Google privacy debacle when the search giant was circumventing Apple’s privacy settings in Safari Web browsers.

AVG "Do Not Track" ControlsSo how does AVG Do Not Track work?

The company explains how the feature works as follows:

When browsing to a website you will notice an icon in your browser that shows how many websites and advertisers are collecting data about your activity. These are categorized under three types.

• Ad Networks

• Social Buttons

• Web Analytics

For each of the identified websites that collect data about the user, AVG Do Not Track provides additional information, such as:

• Data collection is anonymous

• Data collected contains personal identifiable information

• How the collected data is retained

• If the collected data is shared

The identification of these criteria is based on the published privacy policy of the websites concerned, which users frequently haven’t read in detail. A link to the privacy policy and opt-out option (if available) is also provided.

In March 2012, the Obama administration unveiled a consumer-privacy strategy aimed at helping protect users online. The core of the strategy is a "privacy bill of rights” designed to create a standard on how consumers can expect their data to be handled while using various online services.

“The reason AVG launched ‘Do Not Track’ is that we believe consumers have a right to worry-free protection and control over their own online privacy,” said Siobhan MacDermott, AVG’s Chief Policy Officer.

Additionally, a passive “Do Not Track” was introduced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that relies on users’ voluntary adherence to this feature notification. This W3C Service Pack adds passive Do Not Track and is on by default.

Because compliance is voluntary, AVG says, it doesn’t give the consumer real control over data collection.

“We believe all Internet users are entitled to know how their online data is collected and used---and they should have possible solutions available,” said JR Smith, CEO of AVG Technologies.

The Do Not Track feature is available in AVG’s free and premium (paid) AVG 2012 product suites.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.